August 16, 2014 – The Lament of Eustace Scrubb”

This is a song by The Oh Hellos that has been much on my mind lately. I listen to it when I wash the dishes and when I run the bleachers. (If you don’t know the story of Eustace Scrubb, you should read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S.Lewis. For now, you should know he was a rotten jerk of a boy, who was transformed into a dragon as a result of laziness and greed. As this creature, he finally discovers the value of friendship and compassion. If you want to know what happens, go read the book.)

The band seems to have caught Eustace on the evening finally sees himself honestly for the fallen person he is. He is facing the fact that the ship will have to sail away from the island and leave him there in the morning, because they cannot stay and he cannot travel with them. There are a few lines in particular that give me pause.

“Brother, forgive me. I know that I’m the one to blame, cause when I saw my demons, I knew them well and welcomed them…”

“…When I touched the water, they tell me I can be set free…”

 

 

I do not own the song.

August 6, 2014 – Writing truth

When he was facing a blank page, Ernest Hemingway would tell himself, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know” (A Moveable Feast.) 

Spoken word poet Sarah Kay teaches her students a trick to begin the poetry-writing process, telling them to make a like of “Ten things I know to be true.” (During her TED talk, she told the audience to pick three. “If we all started sharing our lists out loud…at some point, you would realize someone has the exact same thing or one thing very similar to something on your list. And then someone else has something the complete opposite of yours. Third, someone has something you’ve never heard of before. And fourth, someone has something that you thought you knew everything about, but they’re introducing a new angle of looking at it.”

These pieces of advice have been an inspiration and an encouragement for me.

On this small planet wrapped in the expanse of the universe, there are many things that are true. When trying to decide what “the truest sentence is,” I choose not to define truest to mean the truth that I have known for the longest or the truth that is a the heart of life. Instead, I focus on the truth that is most forefront in my mind, the one that I feel at that time. Usually, this helps me to follow an emotion or a thought to the real issue, which is an opportunity for writing. One poem that has sprung from this exercise was on the temptation of running away.

When I write my list of truths, I generally do not have to find the full ten before I realize that the dynamic of two of the truths is one of tension or interest. My most recent poem from this exercise came from the truths that 1. I am a woman and 2. I believe that the Bible is the word of God. (This poem is not done. I had to put it aside for a while.)

Truths can be rough, forcing you to admit things that make you uncomfortable or making you change your mind about something that you’d rather not. Some truths are better shared and explored and struck with different ideas to see how they sound, but others are held quietly and closely until the right time.  Some truths are fact (I ate Frosted Bite-Sized Shredded Wheat this morning for breakfast,) and some are deeply held faiths (I hold to the truth that I am a sinner and Christ is my savior.)

While a poem about breakfast cereal may not be earth-shattering, I am not always trying to split the world in two with my poetry. And there may be many poems already about the grace of God, but sometimes I just want to add to the conversation from my angle.

What are some of the truths you write about?

August 1, 2014 – To borrow a quote…

There’s a passage in the book Eat Pray Love where author Elizabeth Gilbert details her first meal in Rome:

“The first meal I ate in Rome was nothing much. Just some homemade pasta (spaghetti alla carbonara) with a side order of sautéed spinach and garlic…Also, I had one artichoke, just to try it; the Romans are awfully proud of their artichokes. Then there was a pop-surprise bonus side order brought over by the waitress for free—a serving of fried zucchini blossoms with a soft dab of cheese in the middle (prepared so delicately that the blossoms probably didn’t even notice they weren’t on the vine anymore). After the spaghetti, I tried the veal. Oh, and I also drank a bottle of house red, just for me. And ate some warm bread, with olive oil and salt. Tiramisu for dessert.

“Walking home after that meal, around 11:00 PM, I could hear noise coming from one of the building on my street, something that sounded like a convention of seven-year-olds—a birthday party, maybe? Laughter and screaming and running around. I climbed the stairs to my apartment, lay down in my new bed and turned off the light. I waited to start crying or worrying, since that’s what usually happened to me with the lights off, but I actually felt OK. I felt fine. I felt the early symptoms of contentment.

“My weary body asked my weary mind: ‘Was this all you needed then?’”

Gilbert, E. ( 2006). pg 35-36

Like Ms. Gilbert, I have realized that sometimes, it is the simplest things that are the most soothing and comforting. My experience was not as dramatic as Ms. Gilbert’s; I only had a couple full, emotional weeks, not the full-blown divorce and life crisis that she went through. Still, I felt drained and exhausted.

I found myself sitting at my desk at lunch scratching out a the first poem I’d written all month, a silly one, a re-writing of Hey Diddle Diddle. Somewhere in the meaningless task of trying to keep the rhyme and rhythm while infusing my own statement, I realized that I was excited and really awake, (seemingly for the first time that week). I paused, looked at the poem in front of me, and then I looked (metaphorically) at myself. “Is this what you wanted, some quiet release in a beautiful way, a quick draft of the liquor of creativity? Was this all you needed then?”

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July 31, 2014 – Songs have insights

I was at a good friend’s wedding last month, and they danced their first dance to the song I And Love And You by The Avett Brothers. I’m sure I must have heard the song before, but it struck me in such a different way. Ever since, I occasionally use some of my precious data on my phone to look it up on YouTube to listen to it.

 

Sitting in a coffee shop this afternoon, exercising my overthinking muscles, this line pierced me: “When at first I learned to speak, I used all my words to fight, with him and her and you and me, ah, but it’s just a waste of time…”

 

Is this what I’m doing? Finally finding my own hands and feet to move, flailing around and hitting those beside me? Realizing I have my own words to speak and instead of building up, am I just tearing down? Am I screaming, angry to have been so quiet for so long and blaming the people around me who have had their voices all along?

But I may not be entirely wrong about everything. The question is, what is my fault and what can I change and is it worth it?

 

 

Finally got around to buying the album

Finally got around to buying the album

July 22, 2014 – When you ask…

I need help. Please decide if the following experience is a success or failure:

Walking down the street in Pittsburgh, I was stopped by a man who asked me to buy him a pizza from the place a half block back the way I’d come. I agreed. However, I was so flustered by the experience, since this was my first time buying food for a stranger who asked me, that I forgot that I probably should have stayed at the pizza place and talked. After paying, I didn’t know what to do, so I left, completely failing to seize any moment that might have been present.

Obviously, this may have been an opportunity from God in response to my searching for ways to minister and serve, and while I may not have completely blown it, no one can say I lived up to potential.

Maybe next time.

Maybe I need to walk places more often.

July 10, 2014 – A fearful heart

The Alchemist is a book detailing the journey of a boy named Santiago as he attempts to live out his Personal Legend. It reads like a cross between a folktale and an allegory, and there were several different quotes from its pages that gave me pause. Here is one of them: “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself” -The Alchemist, pg 130.

I am always afraid of suffering, whether it’s  being hungry, being embarrassed, being emotionally hurt, or any other type. But cannot all these things be boiled down to a fear of not being in control? I am afraid that things will happen that I would rather prevent, and is that not built on the lie that I can control things?

As human beings, we control nothing, not even our own bodies. If we are exposed to a virus, we may get sick, no matter the measures we take against it. Anyone who has tried to not think about something know how hard it is to direct your own thoughts, and James 3 speaks at length about the untamable tongue.

So if we combine the realization of not being able to control anything in this world with the assurance that God is a compassionate God, then what is there to fear?

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Romans 8:28-31 NASB

 

A portion of Santiago's journey

A portion of Santiago’s journey